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Edward C. Pickering papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MC-0457

Scope and Contents of the Collection

A highlight of this collection is the lecture outlines and problem sets for courses in physics taught by Charles E. Pickering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology between 1867 and 1869. Lecture topics include hydrodynamics, hydrostatics, mechanics, heat, and optics. Notes include some student lists and grades. The collection also includes several articles and a pamphlet authored by Pickering about activities at the Harvard College Observatory. There is also biographical materials as the collection contains reprints of memorials to Pickering after his death in 1919. Charles Pickering spent most of his professional life at Harvard University, and the bulk of the records about his work are at the Harvard University Archives.


  • Creation: 1867 - 1922


Access note

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.


Edward Charles Pickering, 1846-1919, was a physicist and astronomer. He earned an in 1865, from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard, then joined the first instructing staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1866 as an assistant instructor in physics. At MIT he was then assistant professor of physics, 1867-1868, and Thayer Professor of Physics, 1868-1877. From 1875 to 1877, he was also director and organizer of the Rogers Laboratory,the first laboratory for instruction in physics in the United States, a project initially proposed by MIT's founder, William Barton Rogers, in his "Scope and Plan" for the Institute.

Edward Pickering was involved in many scientific activities, including expeditions to observe total sun eclipses. A complete description of his professional work can be found in the National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences at age 27.

In February 1877 Pickering moved to Harvard as the director of the Harvard College Astronomical Laboratory. His research included photometric investigations of the magnitude of stars, visual, photovisual, and photographic. Just before his death he completed the cataloging of every known star, about 220,000 stars, classified with special reference to their physical qualities as determined by their spectra.

Edward Pickering was a founding member of the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1876, serving as its first president in 1877.

"Biographical Memoir of Edward Charles Pickering, 1846-1919", by Solon I. Bailey, National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs, Volume 15, 1932. The memoir includes a bibliography of Edward Pickering's scientific works (pages 179-189).


0.2 Cubic Feet ((1 half manuscript box) )

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Related Materials

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, Charles R. Cross papers, MC 107.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, Department of Physics reports on research, AC 68.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, Class Photograph Albums, AC 319.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, Department of Physics records, AC 74.

Harvard University, Harvard University Archives,Harvard College Observatory, Records of Director Edward C. Pickering.

Harvard University, Harvard University Archives, Papers of Edward Charles Pickering.

MIT Course Catalogs:

Appalachian Mountain Club Library and Archives, Boston, MA

MIT Reports to the President:


  • Report on the Physical Laboratory, by Edward Pickering. In Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, AC 74.
  • Progress of the Physical Department of the Mass. Institute of Technology from 1867-1877, by Edward C. Pickering. In Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, AC 74.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Guide to the Papers of Edward C. Pickering
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 August 20: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
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Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US